Wisconsin Teachers and The Right to Work | An Independent Voters View
I think it is safe to say there is a big “Broohaha” going on in Wisconsin at the moment over the Governors plan to increase employee contributions, to both retirement and healthcare insurance for teachers throughout the state. At the same time stripping their union of collective bargaining rights for the teachers. These are two inter-related but separate issues if you believe the Unions, and one issue if you believe the Gov Walker.
The issue of teachers paying more in to their retirement and health insurance seems to be agreed upon by all sides, though I don’t think it was last Thursday. So the protests are focused on the issues of the new restrictions on collective bargaining rights and issues in the future. These types of issues even more than pay, are the heart of what unions do.
Governor Walker won a majority in the last election beating his Democratic rival by 6 percentage points; not a landslide, but a solid majority of the 5.3 million residents of the Sate of Wisconsin. I have read that this plan was mentioned during the campaign, and he has a clear mandate and a constitutional requirement to balance the budget, which has a 3.6 Billion dollar shortfall. His plan will help alleviate that shortfall by 300 million dollars (a little more than 8%). His premise is that the other things union bargain for collectively, work rules, sick leave etc all have a cost involved and that it provides a necessary tool to local education boards, to keep costs down. The provisions requiring annual votes and non-collection of union dues are viewed as ‘Union Busting’.
I’ve heard many
say that unions are no longer necessary, and I think in most cases folks would
be right. The problem is that there is still that small percentage of companies
and governments that will ignore or violate standards of fairness and safety.
This is particularly true in times like these of high unemployment. Nobody
wants to return to the days of abuse. The rise of the union in the Postal
Service was due to the many abuses by supervisors, of clerks and carriers and
the nepotism of local postmasters. So I am leery of a government without unionized employees. They serve as a proactive check and balance in the government workforce.
So what is the way forward? I think it is to make Wisconsin a ‘Right To Work’ State. According to Wikipedia “Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act goes further and authorizes individual states (but not local governments, such as cities or counties) to outlaw the union shop and agency shop for employees working in their jurisdictions. Under the open shop rule, an employee cannot be compelled to join or pay the equivalent of dues to a union, nor can the employee be fired if he or she joins the union. In other words, the employee has the right to work, regardless of whether or not he or she is a member or financial contributor to such a union.”
Personally I think this is a better way to go than the restrictions Governor Walker has written in to the legislation. The 23 states that use these rules have been seeing new industry locate in their states; low taxes help too. It allows the freedom of workers to join or not join. Keeps the unions looking over the shoulder of management (left or right) and that can and usually is a good thing. It also pushes the unions to work in a more co-operative way.
One final note - I applaud both the Teachers Union supporters, and the Tea Party/Gov Walker support protesters, on a peaceful Saturday of debate in Madison Wis.
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